Blog

Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

  • 21st Century Water Demand Forecasting

    By Matthew Heberger, Senior Research Associate and Heather Cooley, Water Program Director

    August 31, 2016

    Yogi Berra once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” And nowhere is this more true than in the water business. Forecasts are extremely important for water utilities, which must make plans today to meet their communities’ current and future water needs. Since water supply projects can take years to plan and build, utilities’ long-term view often reaches twenty years or more into the future. But the industry has a poor track record when it comes to long-range forecasting.

    The results of this are not purely academic. The end result is that water utilities may build unneeded or oversized water supply and treatment infrastructure – things like reservoirs, pumping stations, treatment plants, and desalination facilities – passing on the costs to customers and creating unnecessary environmental impacts. …»

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  • Knowing and Showing that Companies are Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation

    By Mai-Lan Ha, Senior Research Associate

    February 18, 2015

    The intersection of business, water, and human rights has a contentious past. From protests, to legal battles, to the suspension of business operations, addressing local community conflicts over water and sanitation issues is a business imperative. Last month, the Pacific Institute in its role as part of the Secretariat of the CEO Water Mandate launched the first comprehensive guide to help businesses meet their responsibility to respect the human rights to water and sanitation. The document Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: Bringing a Human Rights Lens to Corporate Water Stewardship provides companies with step-by-step guidance to know and to show that they are respecting the rights.

    …»

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  • The Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines – A common and meaningful way for companies to track and communicate their water performance, risks, and impacts

    by Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    October 7, 2014

    The Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines are available as a PDF report and web-based tool.

    disclosure-guidelines-cover-2014This week, the CEO Water Mandate launched its finalized Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines – a common approach for companies to effectively and intelligibly disclose the many elements of their corporate water management practice to key stakeholders. The Guidelines present an important step in corporate water stewardship that can help companies communicate with their stakeholders, and better understand themselves in the process. Here are a few (of many!) ways in which the Guidelines can benefit a company.

    Demonstrating good practice

    By providing meaningful quantitative metrics and qualitative approaches that describe corporate water practice, the Guidelines help companies demonstrate good performance and reduced risks and impacts to investors, consumers, communities, suppliers, their own employees, and others. This is particularly important as, in the past, many companies have used water-related metrics that are at best of only limited use, and at worse quite misleading! For example, traditional globally-aggregated water use metrics inherently hide and undervalue the local nature of water resource challenges. Perhaps a company’s global water use has decreased, but has it decreased in the places that are facing the most urgent water shortages?

    …»

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  • GreenBiz Blog: The Three Questions You Need To Ask about Assessing Water Risk

    by Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute Corporate Sustainability Program, and Sissel Waage, Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at BSR (Business for Social Responsibility)

    July 28, 2014

    Q-markDo your company’s risk assessment processes consider water risk for every major capital decision, as well as operational management and supply chain partner screening? If not, it is time to call a meeting to revise business risk assessment and management procedures.

    The business case is now clear. For example, as quoted in the Ceres report “Murky Waters? Corporate Reporting on Water Risk” (PDF), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission homes in on material risks as: “Changes in the availability or quality of water … can have material effects on companies.” JPMorgan’s “Watching Water” report (PDF) states: “In many situations, the risk of business interruption due to water scarcity appears to be on the rise, making contingency planning more important.”

    A UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate report explains that “inside the fence-line” approaches are inadequate: “The simple measurement of corporate water use and discharge does not provide a complete picture of a company’s water risks or impacts. … As such, understanding and managing water risks requires companies to assess watershed conditions” (emphasis added)…

    Read the full blog at GreenBiz.

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  • National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Why Has the Response to the California Drought Been so Weak?

    By Peter Gleick, President

    July 20, 2014

    In the past few weeks, I have had been asked the same question by reporters, friends, strangers, and even a colleague who posts regularly on this very ScienceBlogs site (the prolific and thoughtful Greg Laden): why, if the California drought is so bad, has the response been so tepid?

    There is no single answer to this question (and of course, it presumes (1) that the drought is bad; and (2) the response has been tepid). In many ways, the response is as complicated as California’s water system itself, with widely and wildly diverse sources of water, uses of water, prices and water rights, demands, institutions, and more. But here are some overlapping and relevant answers.

    First, is the drought actually very bad?

    …»

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  • Can We Reasonably Expect the Private Sector to Advance Sustainable Water Management? Should We?

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    June 16, 2014

    Over the past several years, the CEO Water Mandate has articulated to businesses why and how they can advance sustainable water management by making their own operations more efficient and by contributing to watershed efforts to promote sustainability. This is a proposition that some, especially a segment of the NGO community, are skeptical of. Many of these concerns are outlined in a paper from the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) entitled Conflicts, Companies, Human Rights and Water—A Critical Review of Local Corporate Practices and Global Corporate Initiatives.

    This week, the Mandate released a discussion paper – in collaboration with WWF International – that tackles these claims and shines a light on why we believe they are largely not true.

    Let’s go through these contentions one-by-one: …»

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  • Huffington Post: Will New Climate Regulations Destroy the Economy? (Hint: No.)

    By Peter Gleick, President

    June 2, 2014

    No. On the contrary, they might just save it by helping stimulate new technologies and industries and by reducing the risks of climate disruption.

    There is a long history of claims that new rules to protect the environment or human health will seriously harm the United States economy. These claims are political fodder, they are provocative, and they are always wrong. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite: environmental regulations consistently produce enormous net benefits to the economy and to human health. In 2008, for example, the United States’ environmental technologies and services industry supported 1.7 million jobs. The industry at that time generated approximately $300 billion in revenues and exported goods and services worth $44 billion.

    Overall, a peer-reviewed 2011 study found that just the programs established by the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments were expected to yield direct benefits to the American people that vastly exceed costs of complying with the regulations. The study’s central benefits estimate in 2020 exceeded costs by a factor of more than 30-to-1.

    And these partial economic assessments ignore the health benefits of these rules. Health experts have estimated that the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, for example, for 2010 alone:

    …»

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  • Do Businesses in the U.S. Have an Enlightened Self-Interest in Sustainable Water Management?

    By Jason Morrison, Corporate Sustainability Program Director

    April 8, 2014

    Water challenges are not just an issue for companies with operations and/or suppliers in developing countries; they are confronting businesses here and now in the United States. And while the current drought in California and the Southwest or the one in the Midwest last year get considerable attention, many regions in the US face a chronic imbalance between water supply and demand. These regional imbalances, coupled with a variety of other water-related concerns nationally, present current and future water risks for US business.

    looming-water-challenges-infographicThis of one of the key findings of a new study released by the Pacific Institute and VOX Global, titled “Bridging Concern and Action: Are US Companies Prepared for Looming Water Challenges?” Based on a survey of over 50 companies, it reveals that most of participating companies believe water challenges will significantly worsen in the next five years. More specifically, 60% of companies indicate water is poised to affect business growth and profitability within five years, and more than 80% say it will affect their decisions on where to locate facilities. …»

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  • Defining Water Scarcity, Water Stress, and Water Risk: It’s Not Just Semantics

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    February 4, 2014

    Over the past couple years, the Pacific Institute’s Corporate Sustainability Program, in its role with the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, has been developing the Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines, which provide a common framework for how companies can report water-related information to stakeholders in a meaningful manner. One of the core goals of this effort is to encourage companies to report their water-related information in a more harmonized way, so that companies are thinking and talking about water in a similar, more comparable way.

    One obstacle to more harmonized water reporting is the fact that many companies, stakeholders, and corporate water assessment tools do not have a shared understanding of key water-related terms used in disclosure. In particular, many companies and others use the terms “water scarcity,” “water stress,” and “water risk” (often used to indicate geographic areas where water challenges are more pronounced) in a variety of ways and often interchangeably. For example, some companies report water use reduction specifically in areas of water “scarcity,” while others report water use reductions in areas of water “stress.” In other cases, many companies refer to areas facing water stress, but actually mean different things. …»

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  • Up-scaling Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives on the Water Action Hub

    By Mai-Lan Ha, Research Associate

    November 19, 2013

    Technology for development has been a hot topic in the development sphere, particularly here in the Bay Area. The rapid advancements in broadband and mobile technology, combined with the proliferation of mobile applications, and increasing internet penetration rates worldwide have allowed these new tools to take a central role in programs working to meet sustainable development objectives.

    A few weeks ago, I attended Net Impact’s annual conference as a judge for AT&T and EDF’s Ideathon, “How Would You Address the Water Crisis,” focused on utilizing mobile technology to help address the issue of water scarcity. The participants were thoughtful young professionals and students interested in understanding more about the water crisis and working with others to develop real solutions to address it. …»

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